Tag Archives: Kids

Parents & Forbidden Friends

The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.
Deuteronomy 13:4 (NRSV)

When I was a child I lived in an area of town in which many young families were raising their children. There were kids everywhere. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were pretty cool, but on occasion there were kids my mom demanded that I stay away from. Anyone who knows my mom knows what a sweet, loving and accepting lady she is. So, when mom told me that I was not to hang out  with a kid, not play neighborhood games if he was involved, and certainly not to go into his house if invited, then there was certainly something up.

I can remember being regularly confused by this in the moment. I didn’t get why mom had turned into such a meanie or why she had suddenly laid down the gauntlet of forbidden friendship. With my mom, however, this was a rare occurrence, and the forbidden friend was almost always someone I didn’t really want to hang with anyway so it turned out not to be a big deal.

When I finally got to be an adult and a parent of young children, I finally got where my mom was coming from, and was thankful for drawing strong boundaries for me when it was necessary. Sometimes your Spidey sense (as Wendy likes to put it) goes off and you know in your gut that whatever is going on with your kid’s friend is not a good thing. When your kid hangs out with that kid, then your kid’s attitude and behavior transforms into something from the dark side when they get home. Danger Will Robinson!

Today’s chapter is one of those difficult ancient texts that is difficult for a 21st century modern American to fully understand. When I thought about it from the perspective of God as parent, and the Hebrews like children in a new neighborhood, I think I can begin to get an idea for what motivated the commands. When you consider that the local pagan religions of that time were into all sorts of dark things like sacrificing children, it starts to make even more sense.

I’m thankful this morning for parents who were appropriately cautious with me as a kid and who had my best interest at heart. I’m thankful for my children who have learned along their own life journeys the importance of choosing good companions for the sojourn. I’m thankful that God desires the same for me.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured photo:  anderspee via Flickr

Top Five Tuesday: Five Things I Miss About My Toddlers

Speaking of the toddler stage…I know that pre-school kiddos are a handful. As a father who is about 20 years beyond those years there are things that I truly miss about parenting between when the girls were out of diapers and walking to when they were off to school. And, since I missed my “Memory Monday” post yesterday, let’s do a two-fer today. For the Top Five Tuesday and Memory Monday mash-up, here are the top five things I miss about parenting my two little toddlers:

  1. Bedtime stories.
  2. Cuddling (especially when they fell asleep in my arms).
  3. The screams of “Daddy!” and the sound of four feet running to greet me when I came through the door.
  4. The most hilarious things that came out of their mouths.
  5. Wrestling and rumbling on the floor, tickling, and the giggles, giggles, giggles.

“Yeah. He’s ‘That Kid'”

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The Pella VLs asked me to shoot some family photos of them in the fall colors this weekend. Wendy and Suzanna went along to help corral and entertain the three VL children. It is always a monumental task to get three young children to all look at the camera and smile at the same time. As usual, I shot hundreds of frames and came up with a handful of decent shots.

As I was going through the photos with Wendy and Suzanna last night, we found ourselves howling with laughter at the number of silly faces young Aaron [the middle child – shocking] created in an endless effort of non-conformity. I just had to share a few.

Late Night Conversation

2013 09 27 Late Night Conversation
Canon 6D f/4 1/10 ISO12800

I shot this on a quick whim the other night. It’s far from a perfect shot, but I immediately fell in love with it. I love Suzanna’s awkward teenager stance and the fact that her socks are different colors. I love that Wendy is turned away from her desk and leaning in towards Suzanna.

One of the things I have learned while working with youth and raising teenagers is that important conversations often happen late at night. Perhaps it’s that our guard comes down at night when we’re weary of trying to hold it up. Perhaps it’s that the phone isn’t ringing and there’s no one rushing off to some immediate appointment. Perhaps it’s a combination of things. Whatever the reason, I relish the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with kids who are honestly just trying to figure things out in an increasingly complex world.

Fifth Annual JP-VL-VW SummerFest

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On Labor Day weekend Wendy, Suzanna and I traveled down to the lake to play host to the JPs and VLs for a jam-packed holiday weekend of fun in the sun. This is the fifth straight year that the three families have gotten together, and the fourth year in a row that the festivities have been at our Playhouse (for the record, I think 2010 was more about working on the basement than having fun in the sun). It’s fun to think back to how quickly the little ones grow and how life changes from year to year.  The social dynamics change with the shifting complexities of the numbers, both the sum total of people and the respective ages involved. Nevertheless, there is incredible blessing in friends and families sharing the journey of life together as we get together each summer to re-create.

Everyone arrived on Thursday evening. Wendy and I generally like to get to the lake a day in advance of the invading armies to clean, prepare, and arrange for the impending encampment. We couldn’t exactly take Suzanna out of school in order to make that happen, so we found ourselves all arriving within minutes and hours of one another. C’est la vie. When you vacation together every year, there’s a familiarity that allows for flexibility.

Friday was a laid back day at the Playhouse. The kids had a blast swimming off the dock. Wendy and I got the waverunner gassed up and running. We took it for a little spin to work the cobwebs out of it and ran over to Bulldog’s for an afternoon drink, only to have the waverunner decide not to start when we wanted to head back home. Fortunately, the folks at Bulldog’s ran us over to the neighboring marina where the generous mechanic loaned me some starting fluid. We were soon on our way back home.

Saturday was our big outing to the waterslides at Bear Bottom Resort along with a bite of lunch. We returned home for more swimming off the dock and a fantastic steak dinner together. Of course, great meals together is one of the hallmarks of our annual get together and this year was no exception. Once the meal was over and the kids headed to bed the adults enjoyed continued the feast (generally over playing cards) drinking “Tom’s coffee” and eating Wendy’s cheesecake. I don’t even want to know how much weight I put on over that weekend. It felt like a lot! Saturday evening the adults played Quelf with the usual hilarious results.

The only bad weather we had all weekend came briefly on Sunday morning. The kids jumped in the lake to get a quick swim in before the worst of it hit. I will never forget the vision of little Aaron standing on the top rung of the ladder on the swim dock looking up at the ominous dark clouds. Then as the wind began to blow he started screaming “STORM” at the top of his lungs as if he was some Shakespearean harbinger of doom. When the rain started they all ran for the cover of the house to play and watch movies while we waited for the sun to come back out. It did come out in the afternoon and we all headed down to Captain Ron’s for a swim at the beach, though the huge crowds led us all to quickly agree that we preferred the quiet (and inexpensive drinks) back at the Playhouse. So, we took the party back to the dock.

Props to Suzanna who became nanny for the weekend and with positive attitude took excellent care of the kids, providing the adults with more peace and quiet than we probably realize. Everyone headed home late Monday morning and conversation already began regarding next year’s gathering of the three families.

Confidence, Pride, & Encouragement

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I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles. 2 Corinthians 7:4 (NLT)

Late this summer Wendy and I were blessed to have Wendy’s youngest sibling, Suzanna, come and live with us. Suzanna is attending her final year of high school here at the local public high school and getting involved in some of the artistic exploits she loves and are available to her in our wonderful little community. Last night was parent teacher conferences and we headed over to check in with Suzanna’s teachers. I must admit that it was a bit surreal returning to the high school. Madison graduated three years ago and I thought I was finished. But, you never know where the path will lead and what adventures lie ahead of us on the journey.

Having a teenager back in the house has prompted this father to a lot of personal reflection in the past few weeks. It has brought back a lot of memories, and even made me wax a little nostalgic for the days when Taylor and Madison buzzed back and forth in front of my home office and argued in the bathroom as they got ready for school in the mornings. It has been so quiet here on the 2nd floor of Vander Well Manor for so long.

As I read Paul’s words (above) I thought of Taylor and Madison who are grown and have struck out on their own respective paths. I have such confidence in them, am so proud of them, and am so encouraged to see the amazing women they have become. I thought of our sister, Suzanna, and the glowing comments we heard from teachers last night at parent teacher conferences. I am blown away by her courage to take a step of faith, enter a new community, attend a new school, and stretch herself in almost every way. She is proving herself to be such a capable, intelligent, articulate young woman in so many ways. We are blessed to share this time of life with her.

I have always believed that job one for a parent, starting day one, is to work yourself out of a job by raising children who can capably and successfully strike out on their own faith journey, make their own way in this world, and have their own positive influence on the lives of others. To watch it actually happen is the source of tremendous encouragement, pride, and joy.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 35

“Don’t desecrate the land in which you live. I live here, too—I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel.” Numbers 35:34 (MSG)

When I was a kid my universe was the 3100 block of Madison Avenue. There were a number of kids on our block and every summer evening was spent outside playing various games of tag, ball or make-believe. We knew who lived in every house on our block on both sides of the street. We knew which neighbors were friendly and which were mean. We knew the yards to avoid because the grumpy old lady who lived there would yell at you if she caught you in her yard. We knew which houses you definitely wanted to visit when you were selling candy to raise money for Little League because the kind old couple would always buy whatever you were selling.

Reading today’s chapter, I was struck by the way God described Himself for Moses and the gang. He was a neighbor. He lived in the neighborhood. He was not the God who existed remotely in a distant heaven, but the God who lived next door and was affected by local events just like everyone else. Jesus took the concept a step further when He said, “when you’ve done it to the least of these [neighbors], you’ve done it to me.”

Today, I’m thankful for a God who does not exist in remote distance that I cannot reach, but God who is near and chose to dwell in the neighborhood. I’m quite sure He would welcome us to play kickball in His yard.

Chapter-a-Day 1Chronicles 7

Tom & Girls 2010 05 These were Asher's sons, all of them responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders. 1 Chronicles 7:40a (MSG)

Driving away from a client meeting in Wisconsin yesterday, my phone rang. Clear as a bell, on the other end of the line, was my daughter Madison calling from India. She is there on a month long mission to work with the poor and orphans and to encourage the local believers there. Her childlike "HI DADDY!" was music to my ears (she is doing great, by the way).

This weekend we get away to celebrate Taylor's 4th of July birthday (As Grandma says, "She's our firecracker!"). Taylor and Clayton are working hard this summer and prepping to help lead a team of Central students to Haiti to help with the on-going relief work.

Last night I talked on the phone to my old high school buddy Doug. He was telling me about his kids, and talking about what good kids they are. We had a dad moment, appreciating how great it feels to have good kids.

When I read about the sons of Asher, my heart nodded in understanding. It is such a blessing to have good kids. It is wonderful to look at your children and see "them responsible, excellent in character, and brave." As I tell them, "no pop could be prouder."